5 Pac-12 takeaways from Women's College World Series media day
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Women's College World Series doesn't begin until Thursday, but the Pac-12's trio of teams arrived at USA Hall of Fame Stadium on Wednesday for media day, where they fulfilled their media obligations interviews and had a chance to soak in the moment. (Quite literally, as thunderstorms pounded the ballpark all day.)
Here were some key takeaways.
This is a big moment for the Beavers — even if they don't realize it yet
OSU head coach Laura Berg won the Women's College World Series as player with Fresno State in 1998 and is a four-time Olympic medalist, but she said lead the Beavers to OKC been the highlight of her career so far. It's just the second time OSU has reached this stage (2006).
"It's one thing to be able to do it as a player — when you have the bat in your hand, the glove on your hand, the ball in your hand," Berg explained. "To be able to get a group of incredible young women from 18 to 22 on the same page, in the same boat, rowing in the same direction, it's different."
It's that togetherness that has allowed a young OSU team to navigate the highs and lows of its season — like the way it bounced back from a seven-game losing streak in early May to get where it is now.
The Beavers never let any moment get too big. Not even when they had the chance to take in Hall of Stadium for the first time.
"I almost feel like I'm just here spectating and I'm not here playing," said star first baseman Frankie Hammoude. "It has not hit me that I get to play in OKC with my team and have all these cool memories to share later down the road. It's awesome."
This is Mariah Mazon's time to shine
The WCWS is where legends are made. Last year, it was James Madison's Odicci Alexander who captivated the college softball world. This year, it could be Mariah Mazon. Don't take it from us.
"Oregon State, they've got a phenomenal pitcher that nobody even knows about, but you'll know her now," said Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso.
Mazon has been phenomenal for the Beavers for five years now, but especially in the first two rounds of this postseason.
She has hit three home runs and drove in eight runs in Oregon State’s seven postseason games, while allowing just eight earned runs in 32.2 innings (a 1.73 ERA).
A two-way player, Mazon can take over a game. Remember Oregon State's Regional-clinching victory over Tennessee? Mazon launched the game-winning homer in the sixth inning, then pitched the seventh.
In the Stanford Super Regional, Mazon had two hits and allowed just one run over 9.2 innings in the two-game sweep.
With a player like that on their side, the Beavers will be a tough out in OKC.
"I think a lot has to do with realizing this is her last year and to just leave it all out on the field." Berg said of Mazon's rise. "She has nothing to lose. Leave it all out on the field, show the world what she is capable of doing."
Megan Faraimo gets another chance
Like Mazon, UCLA right-hander Megan Faraimo has something to prove in Oklahoma City. She returns to the WCWS after missing last year's with an injury. Faraimo said having to watch the Bruins from home makes this year's trip "a little more special."
"I have always been hungry to get here, but not being able to be with my team last year, I just feel very blessed and honored to be here now," she said.
Head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez didn't downplay the significance of having a healthy Faraimo, saying "a big part of why we're here is our pitching has been solid."
Faraimo and Holly Azevedo have led the Bruins to the second-best ERA in the country (1.40). Together, they have only allowed seven runs in five postseason games.
Their offense hasn't been as consistent, but it seems to have found its stride at just the right time, averaging almost eight runs per game in the NCAA Tournament.
"We have had a true one-two with opportunities to throw others that has allowed for our team to come up with timely hits, but I truly believe we're here because we're playing our best ball," Inouye-Perez said.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) June 2, 2022
Arizona is playing pressure-free
The Wildcats have looked like a new team in the postseason, becoming the first unseeded team ever to go undefeated on the road in Regionals and Super Regionals. Their pitching has been lights out, they are getting timely hits, and they have made several spectacular defensive plays while only committing one error.
Head coach Caitlin Lowe said she knew in the fall that her team had the talent to be special, but for much of the season they couldn't put the pieces together.
Selection Sunday was a turning point. Receiving an NCAA Tournament bid meant the Wildcats no longer had to worry about being the team that couldn't extend their program's now-35-year postseason streak.
"I thought we released a lot that day, and it was just a new start from then on," Lowe said. "I think they've played with less pressure. I think they've played loose. I think they've started to be themselves. It helps to have a healthy team going in, too. I think they chose themselves in a way they hadn't yet before. It didn't really matter what anybody else thought, and they kind of went on a tear of being themselves, and I think that's been the coolest thing to see."
Remember, these are student-athletes
Many universities are out for summer break right now, but not UCLA, which operates under the quarter system. So even as some of the biggest games of their lives loom, the Bruins have other obligations.
"I'm in a master's program, and I actually have a 30-page paper due, so I'm working on that," said shortstop Briana Perez. "It's definitely hard to focus, just especially being here. But as a fifth-year senior I kind of put in the work at the beginning of the quarter because I was hoping that we would be here, and that's exactly where we are."
Faraimo, who said she has a final due at noon on Thursday, believes that learning how to balance school and softball will benefit her later in life.
"My best advice is to compartmentalize everything and be where your feet are," she said. "When you are watching video, watch video, scout, do what you have to do. When you are in study hall, really do what you have to do because you're not going to get much time to work on your schoolwork after that."